Marathon budget meeting in Kennett

Kennett Township staff spent almost five hours Thursday reviewing potential budget cuts and tax increases for an online audience that reached 89 people at one point.

The four-hour, 55-minute meeting was the latest in a series of budget meetings since September. The township supervisors are slated to approve a preliminary budget at their Nov. 18 meeting. No decision was made on a possible tax increase on Thursday.

“I hope everyone appreciates how much more detailed, how transparent, everything is,” said Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Whitney Hoffman. “That’s a vast improvement from where we were before. (Township staff) have worked incredibly hard.”

It's budget time in the townships.

The supervisors appeared to be leaning toward enacting a local services tax for people who work in the township, as well as a real estate tax increase, to help close funding gaps in the proposed budget that exist even after potentially moderate cuts to spending requests.

“Expense requests have far exceeded revenue forecast,” township Finance Director Amy Heinrich said. “We are going through this process to talk about what our options are.”

Heinrich walked supervisors and the public through the various departments and the ways moderate and extreme cuts to spending would affect the bottom line. With moderate cuts of about $635,000 to different areas of the budget, total expenses could be $5.84 million.

A copy of the budget spreadsheets can be found on the township website, Kennett.pa.us.

“The budget development process is really important,” said township Manager Eden Ratliff. “The end product will be a statement of the priorities of the board.”

Current real estate taxes at 2.3 mils include a library tax of two-tenths of a mil, real estate taxes of two-tenths of a mil, and a real estate tax for emergency management services at 1.9 mils. A mil is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

With a 2021 budget that has moderate cuts, the overall real estate tax could be 3.5 mils, as well as a local services tax of $52 a year for everyone who works in the township. If approved, township taxes for a house assessed at $241,610 could total $846, according to township numbers.

Ratliff stressed that the possibility of a tax increase had nothing to do with the $3.2 million allegedly embezzled by the former township manager.

“Those funds that were stolen are reserve funds,” he said. “They weren’t operating funds … We’re not proposing to make up what was stolen.”

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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